Asian Insider: Beijing's Covid-19 fight | Conversations on the Future

Dear ST reader,

While the rest of the world eases restrictions and life slowly returns to pre-pandemic norm, China is racing to avoid another potential lockdown after Shanghai.

Don't miss our new video series Conversations on the Future hosted by US bureau chief Nirmal Ghosh that focuses on broader and long-term issues and trends.

Beijing's Covid-19 fight

The Chinese capital of Beijing has stepped up its fight against Covid-19 by closing some public spaces as it continues to conduct mass testing for most of its 22 million residents in a bid to avert a Shanghai-like lockdown.

While Chinese state media push the narrative that China’s “dynamic zero-Covid” strategy works, the public outrage, resentment and even quiet revolt on social media show a drastically different picture, and is proliferating at a speed faster than censors can keep up, China correspondent Danson Cheong reports.

Podcast: China bureau chief Tan Dawn Wei discusses the impact of a potential Beijing lockdown

In Shanghai: Singaporeans taking extended lockdown in their stride

Know the past to understand the future

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Three ancient civilisations are tussling for dominance and how these tensions play out will shape the future, says respected historian Wang Gungwu. Hear his views in the first of a new video series where US bureau chief Nirmal Ghosh speaks with guests about big ideas and issues that matter.

Others in his guest list include Yale Law Professor and author Amy Chua, Harvard Professor Graham Allison and Chinese science fiction writer Chen Qiufan.

Palm oil export ban

Indonesia has widened the scope of its export ban on raw materials for cooking oil to include crude and refined palm oil, in the latest policy flip-flop. 

The brouhaha over Jakarta’s handling of rising cooking oil prices has prompted calls to adjust its problem-solving style by working with the free market instead of fighting it, reports Indonesia correspondent Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja. 

While Indonesia's move has sowed confusion and alarm among exporters and consumers alike, industry players say the ban is unlikely to last more than a month due to Indonesia's limited storage capacity.

Philippines presidential race

A 400,000-strong sea of pink greeted Philippines Vice-President Leni Robredo last weekend in what was both a birthday party and a campaign rally for the presidential candidate.

Ms Robredo, 57, still trails Mr Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the 64-year-old son and namesake of the late dictator, by some 30 percentage points in opinion polls. But her supporters insist there is a disconnect between survey results and Ms Robredo's massive campaign rallies, reports Philippines correspondent Raul Dancel. 

Over 65 million Filipinos will cast their ballots on May 9 to choose who will succeed President Rodrigo Duterte. Follow ST for in-depth coverage of the elections

Also in the news: Friends mourn Filipino CEO Cris Albert

Small island causes big waves

A security pact between China and Solomon Islands has alarmed the US and its allies enough for Washington to dispatch top officials to the Pacific Island nation in its attempt to halt the deal.

The issue has also dominated the ongoing election campaign in Australia, which is worried about the possibility of a Chinese naval base in its neighbourhood.

In this week's Power Play column, China correspondent Danson Cheong discusses why a small island nation matters in the big power rivalry.

Refugee policies under scrutiny

A riot and breakout at an immigration detention centre in Malaysia last week has raised fresh questions over the government's handling of Rohingya refugees. While the breakout has put the spotlight once again on the conditions in the centre, civil society groups say the Rohingyas face far deeper problems, such as Malaysia's policy and attitude towards refugees, reports Malaysia correspondent Ram Anand.

Meanwhile, Japan has welcomed Ukrainians fleeing the ongoing war, a departure from its usual attitude of giving refugees the cold shoulder. The galling difference in reception with refugees from other conflict zones has stirred up questions over why the unequal treatment, reports Japan correspondent Walter Sim.

Thaksin scion in spotlight

At the Pheu Thai general assembly last Sunday, all eyes were on Ms Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the youngest daughter of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The 35-year-old political novice’s recent rise in ranks within the opposition party has fuelled speculation that she could be put forward as its candidate for prime minister in the next general election widely expected to be called soon, reports Thailand correspondent Tan Tam Mei.

Charming Incheon

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Mention Incheon and most people will think of South Korea's main air gateway, Incheon International Airport. But South Korea correspondent Chang May Choon says there is so much more in Incheon waiting to be discovered. Follow her as she uncovers the hidden charms of the sprawling west-side coastal city.

Also in ST First Flight Out series: 7 places to visit in Bangkok

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